New Delhi: Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Friday convicted of rape by the CBI court in Panchkula. The sentencing hearing will be on August 28.
With the verdict, the states of Punjab and Haryana are on the edge.
Mobile services have been suspended, 150 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed and 22 trains through Punjab and Haryana have been cancelled. Two stadiums in Haryana’s Sirsa district have been converted into “special jails”. All this is being done because of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, chief of the religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda. According to reports, Dera followers have been stocking up on petrol and arms. But this is not the first time that the court appearances and imminent arrest of a self-styled Godman have triggered a civil war-like situation in the country. News18 looks at two other such instances which led to massive loss of life.
The Rampal arrest, 2014
Rampal, whose followers refer to him as ‘Jagatguru Rampal ji’, ‘Sant Rampal ji’ and ‘Rampal Dass ji’, is the founder and leader of a religious sect called Kabir Panth. In 2006, he triggered a row by criticizing the central text of the Arya Samaj and that triggered clashes between the two sects. Arya Samaj followers surrounded his Ashram and one person was shot dead in the clashes, besides 59 others being injured. Rampal was charged with murder and spent 22 months in jail. In 2008, he was released on bail but refused to attend court hearings regularly. Between 2010 and 2014, Rampal skipped court proceedings 42 times. In September 2014, he was asked to appear before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a contempt of court case. Chandigarh was kept under virtual lockdown and 2,000 police personnel were deployed to prevent his followers from entering the city. Despite this, thousands of Kabir Panth followers made their way to Chandigarh.
Following this, the High Court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. On November 5, his followers protested by blocking road and rail traffic in Ambala. On November 9, Haryana Police finally made its way to Rampal’s Ashram in Hisar to arrest him but found that his followers had formed a human chain around the Ashram to prevent the cops from detaining their ‘Guru’. Police tried to “negotiate” with them but the standoff continued for over a week.
Cops clashed with Kabir Panth followers and had to eventually use earth-movers to break the wall and enter the Ashram. Rampal, however, was not inside. When cops swept the premises, they found the corpses of five women and an 18-month-old baby. It was finally by November 19 that the police finally arrested along with 492 of his followers. They were booked under sections of sedition, murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy, hoarding illegal weapons and aiding and abetting suicide-mongers.
The siege of Jawahar Bagh, 2016
In 2014, the members of Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena, a cult made up of Subhash Chandra Bose’s followers, sat on a protest in Jawahar Bagh in UP’s Mathura. The outfit was led by a man named Ram Vriksha Yadav. The protest went on and turned into a prolonged illegal encroachment. In 2016, the Allahabad High Court rejected Yadav’s appeal to let them stay and directed the police to evict them from the park. On June 2, 2016, when the police reached the park, they were met with violent protesters. The protests soon turned ugly as the squatters pelted stones and fired shots at the police.
The police, though measured at first, fired back after two policemen, including Mathura’s Superintendent of Police (City) Mukul Dwivedi, was killed in the clashes. The protesters had stored large amounts of ammunition and cooking gas cylinders inside the park and they set fire to them. Two cops died in the clashes and at least 23 were seriously injured. Additionally, 22 of the squatters also died. Police scanned the area to arrest Yadav but found that he had burned to death in the fire inside Jawahar Bagh, along with 11 others. Cops recovered 47 guns, 6 rifles, and 179 hand grenades, which revealed the degree to which Ram Vriksha Yadav had cultivated his private army.